Sport

Pite: Knights had been on ‘upward curve’ earlier than scrapped season


Knights captain Pite van Biljon was naturally disappointed
that the coronavirus cut the 2019/20 season short, pointing out that the franchise was on an upward curve when their campaign prematurely ended.

The Bloemfontein-based outfit had just won one of their
biggest matches of the campaign – a crunch final round-robin match against the Titans – to seal a place in the One-Day Cup
semi-finals. 

This after a woeful start to the 50-over term that saw them
fail to win any of their first four matches, before they recovered to finish
fourth. 

But before their scheduled semi-final against the
Hollywoodbets Dolphins, Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced a 60-day
cancellation of the game due to the coronavirus outbreak that has left the
world in an unprecedented standstill.

“It was a bit disappointing because we were in an upward
curve,” Van Biljon lamented.

“The guys started to figure out the game plan and
their roles in the game plan. 

“We started to get a nice brand of cricket going, so it is
unfortunate, but I think we can take a lot of positives out of it. We had an
upward curve when a lot of teams had a downward curve.” 

Overall the Knights finished fourth in both the One-Day Cup
and 4-Day Domestic Series, where they were also well-placed to mount a strong
title bid in the last two rounds. 

They were a little over nine points behind the Lions, who were subsequently declared winners, in the latter competition after
the season was cut short. 

“If I look back, I’d say we had a slow start,” Van Biljon
said.

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“Obviously in the four-day stuff we were right in the mix to contend for
the trophy. 

“We had a bad game against the Lions in Jo’burg which set us
back a little bit, but we then pushed them really well in Kimberley. We had two
good wins against the Warriors so we were very happy with the way we were
playing four-day cricket. 

“One-day cricket, it was the same as last year, we had a
very slow start and had to re-adjust our roles in the team and the way each guy
played. We had to look at what we expected from them and make the messages
clearer. 

“Definitely in the second half of the season we got going a
lot better. I’d say we were definitely heading in the right direction coming
towards the business end of the season. 

“We won that key game against the Titans that was
effectively a quarter-final, so there definitely was a lot of momentum behind
us heading into the semis. Like I said, there was an upward curve towards the
end the season and we were looking good for the final month.” 

There was also a lot of promise shown in terms of young
player that came through at the franchise. Gerald Coetzee, Raynard van Tonder
and Wandile Makwetu were all shining lights and were accordingly praised by the
skipper. 

He said: “Gerald had a great start for us in the four-day
campaign and then he got chosen for the Under-19 squad. Unfortunately, he got
injured after that with quite a bad toe injury, so we missed him for the rest
of the season. A guy bowling at 145 and can hit a long ball down the order, he
could have made an even bigger impact. 

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“And then in the four-day stuff, we had a guy like Raynard
van Tonder, who ended up being the leading scorer in the competition. I think
it was his second season for us and that was very much positive. We also had
Wandile Makwetu, Shaun von Berg, (Mbulelo) Budaza, so there were a lot of
positives.” 

The Knights also had some coaching disruptions after Alan
Kruger was replaced, with JP Triegaardt and Werner Coetsee also serving in
between. 

In the end, the Proteas legend was appointed as the new
coach for next season and Van Biljon did not hide his feelings about the move. 

“Well obviously I’m thrilled, I mean this guy’s a Hall of
Famer,” he added. “He’s probably regarded as one of the best bowlers that ever
played the game. 

“He’s just been named as Warwickshire’s best overseas player
ever. This guy is a legend and you know he’s got international coaching
experience with Australia, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa, so he brings a
heap of experience and an international mentality. 

“For us it’s a massive bonus to have him here. You can see
when he came even halfway into the season, the impact he had with the way we
played was massive. And not just with bowling, even with batting, so I can only
speak good things.”

– CSA media


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